Montreal Witness, 22 March 1852, page 108
The Late James Ramsay Orr
On Tuesday last, the 16th inst., the gentleman above named departed this life, after a career of usefulness which has seldom been equaled, and, perhaps, never surpassed in Canada. For nearly twenty years, Mr. Orr carried on extensive mercantile transactions in this city, with unblemished integrity, remarkable ability, and universal respect; and yet all the while was as laborious and useful in every religious and benevolent cause that claimed his aid, as if he had no other business to occupy his attention. His habits of industry and method, in fact, enabled him to do in his own person the work of two first class men, viz: an accomplished man of business, and an energetic and perservering philanthropist; and all this, with a bodily frame never very strong, and latterly very feeble. Nor did he confine his exertions and means to every legitimate call that came upon him—he actually devised new ways of doing good, and called forth the energies and means of others to cooperate with his own. To such a character as this, we would earnestly ask the attention of young men, and especially young merchants, as a model worthy of close imitation. Never hurried, he went from one thing to another with method, punctuality and a clear judgment, that accomplished results which less gifted men could scarcely understand. He was always active, and all that he did told with effect. Merchants knew him for an able, diligent, and successful man of business, as well as for a decidedly religious man, and, therefore, cannot excuse themselves for neglecting vital religion on the pleas that it is incompatible with the claims of business. Mr. Orr was emphatically a Christian merchant, and it was , doubtless, in his prayerful Christian spirit that the secret of his great ability and usefulness lay. With him, morning and evening exercises of prayer, in the closet an din the family, did not suffer. He was accustomed to enter into his closet, and shut his door, through the day; and it is believed that every matter of importance in his business was made, separately, a subject of prayer.
Viewed as a religious man, Mr. Orr was a promoter, and, probably, at one time or other an active manager of all our religious societies; but the Bible Society, of which he was for many years Recording Secretary, and latterly a Vice President; the French Canadian Missionary Society, of which he was from the beginning one of the most active managers and liberal supporters; and the late Mr. Osgood’s efforts for the religious instruction of seamen, immigrants, and poor children claimed his peculiar regard. He also, in some respects, fulfilled the work of a Tract Society, by importing and putting into circulation good books.
It was, however, in his private life, and as an elder in the Cote Street Church, that his religious character shone most brightly, but at these relations we may merely glance,– suffice it to say, that his minister, fellow elders and Christian friends, will not easily, if ever, find his place filled up. Into his relations as a husband and parent, we do not enter, but they were as near an approach to the fulfillment of the injunctions of the New Testament, as the writer of this notice, who resided for years in his family, ever saw or expects to see.
As a philanthropist, Mr. Orr was a warm and steady friend to, and diligent and liberal promoter of the temperance cause, education, moral reform, and other benevolent objects; whilst no private opportunity was, it is believed, omitted to relieve real distress, or help forward real merit; though such charities were so numerous, and so carefully did he observe the Scripture rule respecting privacy, that each of his most intimate friends knew only a small part of them, and that only incidentally.
As a patriot and citizen, Mr. Orr took a deep interest in every public improvement, and especially rendered most important services to Canada, in encouraging by an extensive and influential correspondence, a wholesome emigration, and, by his acquaintance with the country and public men, aiding the emigrants when they came. Many a family which came poor, ignorant, and friendless to our shores, now settled comfortably, in the newly opened parts of Canada, has reason to be thankful for Mr Orr’s kind efforts in their behalf. In fact, his heart and hand were ever open to any deserving object in need of aid, and all his efforts in behalf of such objects were guided by rare judgment and intelligence.
It only remains to add, that the foregoing testimony is that of one who enjoyed the very great privilege of an intimate and unbroken friendship with the deceased for a long series of years, and a more unwavering, disinterested, self-denying or amiable friend, we believe, remains not on earth.
That the foregoing are not merely the partial opinions of a personal friend, however, will be obvious, from the following paragraph, copied from Saturday’s Herald:–
“In our last issue we recorded the death of James R Orr, Esq., merchant of this city, universally esteemed and regretted by all classes of the community. There are few amongst us whose removal will be so deeply felt. In him charity had its perfect work—no Christian enterprise but received his warmest support—while the poor and the needy found in him an able friend. A large portion of his means, acquired by unceasing diligence and steady enterprise, was freely dispensed in the furtherance of every good object. His life was one of increasing usefulness, where Christian virtues of the highest order were exemplified in a remarkable degree. Being interested in a fine fleet of ships trading to this port, he rendered essential service to the community, by giving free passages to ministers and others engaged in benevolent enterprise. The vast concourse of mourners that followed his remains to the grave, testified to the sacred regard in which his memory is held.
We would say more upon such a rare opportunity of calling public attention to an example of deep, vital religion, united to diligence and ability in the affairs of this world, were it not, that the following notes of the Address of the pastor of the deceased, on the occasion of his funeral, (one of the largest ever seen in Montreal,) express better than we can, what we feel on the subject.